A mother who “disregarded her sacred duty” and neglected her five young children “to the point of cruelty” has been sentenced to four years with the last two and half years suspended.
The children were underfed, badly clothed and even at 11 years old were not toilet trained.
The oldest boy’s teeth were rotten because he was so hungry he was forced to eat from a stolen bag of sugar.
The court heard that the three boys and two girls, who ranged in age from two to nine years old and were aged four to 11 years old when they were first taken into care, were left with severe and long term psychological difficulties.
The family moved from place to place around Ireland, under two different aliases.
The parents never claimed social welfare and the children rarely attended school so the authorities were not aware of the neglect until they arrived at a Garda station in September 2007.
The local sergeant who led the investigation told, Isobel Kennedy SC, prosecuting, that after they were taken into care, one of the children ate incessantly until he vomited and none of them knew how to use a toilet, wash themselves or when to change their clothing.
The children were described as gulping down food and shoving their dinner into their mouths with their hands. The youngest boy could not breathe while he ate.
All the foster parents reported that the children would defecate and urinate in inappropriate places, like a bucket, and the second oldest boy would stuff his underpants with tissue paper.
The few school teachers the children came into contact with did not notice anything obviously wrong with them but another woman reported that on one occasion when they visited her home while their father was doing some casual work there, they “ate like vultures”.
The same woman told gardaí that she bought things for the children because she felt sorry for them.
All the children were behind academically though one of the foster parents described one of the boys as being very bright.
The children’s 34-year-old mother, who cannot be named to protect the children’s identity, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 10 counts of neglecting the children between May 2005 and September 2007.
Her 44-year-old husband has already been convicted of neglect of children and sexual abuse and rape of a young girl by a Central Criminal Court jury. He has also a further conviction for the sexual assault of a young girl.
One of the man’s previous convictions included the abduction of the defendant in England when she was just 14 years old. The couple later married days after her 18th birthday.
Judge Martin Nolan noted that their mother had been preyed upon by their father who he described as “a very violent man” but added “she was the mother of these children and had an obligation to take care of them and to protect them, she failed miserably in this task.”
He described it as “a particularly sad case” and that the five children had been “neglected to the point of cruelty over a substantial period of time”.
He said the evidence in the case “demonstrated that fact beyond a reasonable doubt” and “anyone who encountered these children, anyone with a modicum of common sense and insight would have known this,” the judge commented.
Judge Nolan said she was a damaged individual with her own problems but said there was nothing in the psychologist report to suggest that she could not or did not know where her true responsibilities lay.
“She disregarded her sacred duty and she did not protect or keepsake these children,” Judge Nolan said.
He accepted that the children’s continuing suffering must also be laid at their father’s door but said that as an adult she had a responsibility to protect them.
“For what she did and what she failed to do, she must be punished,” Judge Nolan said before he sentenced the woman to four years in prison. He suspended the final two and half years after taking into account her guilty plea and co-operation with the garda investigation.
The maximum penalty available to the court was a seven-year sentence and or an Irl £10,000 fine.
In September 2007, when the children were put under the care of the Health Safety Executive after an emergency care order, officials noted her eight- and four-year-old daughters wore only shirts and ankle socks while the mother was warmly dressed in a pink top and a Playboy bunny cap.
The younger girl was wearing soiled underwear that had not been changed for some time.
The woman’s eldest son, then aged 11 years old, ate chips in the garda station that night while stuffing more into his pockets.
His younger 10-year-old brother wore trousers half way up his legs, had no socks, no underwear and had holes in his runners.
All the children were smelly and unwashed and the girl’s foster mother later reported that their hair was “a different colour blonde” after she washed it.
The eldest boy is now 15-years-old and is living in a special care unit outside of Ireland.
When he first went into care he had to live in an isolated unit for four years because he was not deemed suitable to be in the company of other children or live with a family.
His victim impact report, read into court by a guardian who has been involved in the childcare proceedings since the children first went into care, stated: “I am the worst child in the world.”
It said he had “a desperate desire to make friends” but is constantly bullied because he still soils himself and smears faeces. He also has a problem with his weight because he frequently overeats.
The woman’s defence counsel, Aileen Donnelly SC, said her client was very much under the influence of her husband.
“Her relationship with him diminished her ability to act independently but she has since turned her life around,” counsel said.
“She was a victim and a victim who did not learn herself. Her head was turned by him and she never righted it herself,” Ms Donnelly told Judge Nolan.
She said her client has “expressed the utmost remorse” and is now in contact with her two older children.
The three youngest do not want to meet her.